Silent Witness Project at ICPL shines light on domestic violence

IOWA CITY ? On the second floor at the Iowa City Public Library, a laminated sign in the shape of a police badge shares the story of how a 29-year-old man died in 1996 after the woman he dated hired someone to shoot him.

Two silhouettes, painted red, hold up other signs recounting how an Iowa City mother and her four children ? ages 3 to 10 ? were killed by the woman?s husband, who died by suicide shortly after killing his family.

The display is part of Domestic Violence Intervention Program?s Silent Witness Project on display during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Though the Silent Witness Project takes place across the nation and Iowa City-based DVIP has had a display before, this is the first year the agency has taken the displays outside of Iowa City.

Since, 1995, the Iowa Department of Justice has provided the stories of victims of intimate partner violence to area organizations.

The Silent Witness Project is currently at nine libraries in DVIP?s eight-county coverage area, including the libraries in Solon and Coralville. Alta Medea-Peters, director of community engagement for DVIP, said the goal of the project is twofold: to serve as a monument to victims of domestic violence and continue to create avenues of help for those suffering.

?The idea is we hold space for the greater conversation in our community,? she said. ?We want to have this conversation ongoing with everyone.?

By having the display in public libraries, Medea-Peters said DVIP hopes to reach a variety of people.

?We know the No. 1 way women get access to our resources is by word-of-mouth. You don?t call the police necessarily, you don?t randomly Google search,? she said. ?Part of our goal is to reach people where they?re at and getting the resources into the hands of people.?

One in four women and one in six men are victims of domestic abuse, Medea-Peters said.

In fiscal year 2017, DVIP assisted 1,900 people in southeastern Iowa. Of those, 900 were in Johnson County. Also last year, DVIP fielded 18,000 crisis line calls.

And domestic violence doesn?t just affect adults, Medea-Peters said. DVIP?s 35-40 bed emergency shelter is full all year long, and half its occupants are children, Medea-Peters said.

Medea-Peters said the extent of domestic abuse shocks some of the individuals who attend DVIP education sessions, especially those in rural places.

?We all know someone,? Medea-Peters said. ?It?s not a ?them? problem. It?s an ?us? problem. It?s your hairdresser, it?s your teacher, it?s a friend.?

The DVIP crisis hotline, which can be reached by calling 1-800-373-1043, is posted at the display, as are handouts with tips for friends and family to start a conversation with someone they think may be a victim.

Tips include:

? Don?t fear being nosy or unqualified to intervene.

? Tell the person you have been concerned about their safety.

? Assure them violence is not their fault.

? Offer resources if possible.

? Don?t be afraid to call a crisis line for the individual.

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program has its headquarters at 1105 S. Gilbert Ct., No. 300 in Iowa City. More information about the agency is online at

The National Domestic Violence hotline can be reached by calling 1-800-799-7233.